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Our Process

The Opportunity Project facilitates 12-week product development cycles—called “sprints”—focused on helping companies, non-profits, and universities build products with federal open data that help solve national challenges.

We give teams access to subject-matter and data experts to accelerate their progress. By emphasizing virtual communication, we make cross-sector collaboration easy and effective.

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Sprint Cycle

In 12 weeks, tech teams build solutions to urgent problems identified by federal agencies and advocacy organizations. Along the way, we create opportunities for teams to hear from experts in federal data and policy and the communities they’re trying to help.

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Share Insights

Tech teams get the insight they need to wrangle federal data, navigate policy contexts, and authentically address the needs of a community. They retain full control of their team, technical vision, business strategy, and resulting intellectual property.

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Launch Products

Sprints typically run through the summer and fall and culminate in an annual Demo Day, where press, data enthusiasts, technologists, and people in government gather to celebrate the launch of products built through The Opportunity Project that year.

HOW IT WORKS

1

Identify challenges

Federal agencies and national advocacy organizations identify high-priority challenges facing the public.

2

Team up

Tech teams from industry and universities sign on to create data-driven, digital products in collaboration with end users, data and policy experts.

3

Build

Tech teams build products during a 12 week virtual tech development sprint that includes user research, data exploration, and product development. Past products include mapping tools, apps, websites, games, AI algorithms, network visualizations, and more.

  1. User research: Teams conduct user research and present what they’ve learned about their end user to cross-sector experts for feedback.
  2. Data discovery: Teams explore data sets from across government - curated by TOP - and connect with federal data stewards to present what they’ve learned and ask questions about how to find and work with federal data.
  3. Concept Pitch: Teams present their product concept for feedback.
  4. Beta Demo: Teams present a prototype of their product for feedback.

4

Launch

Products are launched and showcased at an in-person Demo Day press event in Washington DC.

5

Reach end users

After the sprint, participants work to ensure products reach end users and move the needle on national challenges. Teams have the option to apply for a financial prize to continue their work.

Roles

What participants do in each sprint varies depending on their role.

  • Tech Teams

    Tech teams build a product through the sprint — whether new or within an existing product or platform—that uses open data to solve one of our sprint problem statements.

  • Government

    Federal agencies identify challenges. Policy and federal data experts provide feedback and share insights about federal data and the policy context.

  • User Advocates

    User advocates offer feedback and insights throughout the sprint. They are community leaders, local or national advocates, and people with direct lived experience in the target challenges.

  • Product Advisors

    Product advisors help tech teams develop products with a viable long term strategy that enables them to reach end users.

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Tech teams

Tech teams are the companies, universities, non-profits, and students who build digital products in the sprints. They design, develop, and launch the products they build, and typically own and maintain the products after the sprints. The role of tech team includes:

  • Design and build a digital product that uses federal open data
  • Collaborate with other sprint participants including government data experts to explore and use available data sets, user advocates to understand user needs, and product advisors to develop a post-sprint product strategy
  • Conduct user research to ensure products are solving for real user needs
  • Join virtual “milestone” calls during the sprint to share progress, ask questions and provide feedback to other teams
  • Attend in-person Demo Day to present final products
  • Own and maintain the product after the sprint, or develop a strategy for handoff
  • Optional: attend an in-person user engagement workshop at the beginning of the sprint, and apply for a financial prize at the end of the sprint

Advance your mission

  • Work on a problem statement that aligns with your mission or CSR interests
  • Leverage sprint timeline and project management to advance internal lab or development projects

Develop business channels

  • Develop sample use cases and prototypes that demonstrate internal tech capabilities
  • Leverage sprint timeline and project management to advance internal lab or development projects

Gain access to cross-sector experts

  • Access to federal data and policy experts for real time Q&A
  • Access to end users for testing and feedback

Build relationships & partnerships

  • Build relationships in government
  • Develop partnerships with user groups and other companies

Media spotlight and public relations

  • Gain visibility and press from Demo Day and beyond

Provide a creative opportunity

  • Designers, developers, and engineers from your organization have the opportunity to drive the design and build of the product
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Government

Federal agencies define major challenges facing the public within their mission areas. During the 12-week sprint, policy experts and data stewards from each agency provide feedback to the participating teams and assistance working with federal open data.

  • Develop a problem statement and/or identify relevant open datasets
  • Provide insight related to the agency’s policy and operational areas
  • Answer questions about finding and using the agency’s public data
  • Provide feedback on the products being developed
  • Join 4 “milestone” calls (User Research, Data Discovery, Concept Pitch, Beta Demo)

Meet federal requirements to increase reuse of your data

  • TOP enables agencies to meet requirements from the Federal Data Strategy, President’s Management Agency, and Evidence Act to collaborate with industry to increase the reuse and dissemination of federal open data. TOP engages industry to create products that use open data to provide value to Americans and the economy.

Develop lightweight and cost effective solutions

  • TOP is designed to make cross-sector collaboration easy and cost-effective. Through rapid sprints, agencies can catalyze a greater volume, diversity, and quality of products than they could on their own or through traditional mechanisms.

Catalyze innovation within your agency

  • Through TOP, agency staff learn new strategies for lightweight collaboration with external stakeholders, human-centered design and agile methodology - which can also advance goals like IT modernization and improved customer experience.

Engage with data consumers and improve data quality

  • Improve data quality by engaging directly with data consumers as they work with federal data. By participating in a sprint, agencies develop or deepen relationships with key industry stakeholders and data users, helping to better understand their target audiences and collect real time feedback on data access and quality.
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User Advocates

User advocates are community leaders, local or national advocates, and people with direct lived experience in the target challenges. Past user advocates have represented state and local government, non-profits, service providers, or individual experts. Their role is to guide tech teams in designing solutions that are realistic and useful for the target end users.

User Advocates (UAs) serve a critical role helping tech teams, federal agencies, and other partners understand the everyday people and communities The Opportunity Project seeks to empower. User Advocates communicate the needs, concerns, and realities of the communities they belong to or work with closely, ensuring that the perspective of end users drives how tech teams solve problems. Being a user advocate can be a very lightweight time commitment. Depending on your availability, you can expect to spend 1-3 hours per week working alongside tech teams and other sprint participants to co-create useful technology for your community. A user advocate’s role includes:

  • Provide insights to tech teams based on their expertise and community connections to shape the products built through the sprint
  • Answer questions on user needs to ensure products solve real problems
  • Provide ongoing feedback to tech teams on their products throughout the sprint
  • Join “milestone” calls (User Research, Concept Pitch, Beta Demo)
  • Attend Demo Day and an optional in-person user engagement workshop if possible

Relationships and partnerships

  • Build strategic relationships in government and develop partnerships with tech companies and nonprofits

Shape technology available to your community

  • Speak on behalf of your community to have a real impact on the challenges that are tackled and the products that are created

Share your insights

  • Contribute to knowledge sharing between tech teams, end users, and federal agencies

  • A tech team is brainstorming about what their solution might look like and shares a few ideas. As an expert on your community or stakeholders, you are best able to promote the most promising ideas.
  • A tech team is grappling with a tough, widely misunderstood issue about your community. You share expert knowledge about the problem, leading to a breakthrough and avoiding a critical misunderstanding.
  • A tech team wants to share their prototype with real users. You connect them with end users from your network, helping them gather direct feedback on a potential solution.
  • A tech team is experimenting with the language on their website. You offer guidance on which messages will resonate with your community.
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Product Advisors

Product advisors come from outside of government to help the teams to ensure that the products they create continue after the sprints, so that they can reach their target end users and have real impact.

  • Mentor technologists with your knowledge of industry best practices for product development and deployment
  • Make an impact by helping technologists build products that will last
  • Connect with people in government, private industry, and communities across the country